Rundu — The Rundu intermediate hospital, which caters for referrals from the Kavango East, Kavango West and the Zambezi regions, has a critical shortage of doctors. The health facility also serves a huge number of Angolan patients living along the Okavango River.
The few doctors at the hospital have to attend to more than five sections of the hospital during both day and night. According to an insider, the facility is still operating on a district hospital structure, which makes provision for 27 doctor positions. However, only 23 positions are filled, while three specialist vacancies are not yet occupied.
According to a medical doctor, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends at least 71 doctors for an intermediate hospital of this magnitude. At the moment the hospital has no gynaecologist, while it also does not have a specialist for general medicine and surgery. There is also a need for a senior forensic medical officer. The hospital currently only has one specialist who is a paediatrician.
"We want the ministry to improve here," an irate patient who requested anonymity told New Era. "Imagine being sick and you sit in these queues the whole day and at the end of the day you are told to come back tomorrow. Maybe if you are lucky, you will be able to see a doctor in the afternoon on the second day. Sometimes people give up and go back home."
Approached for comment, the hospital's medical superintendent Dr Joseph Mukerenge acknowledged the shortage of doctors as well as other operational challenges at the state facility. "Yes, my office is filled with complaints.
The truth is our hospital needs more doctors, especially at entry level, the medical officers who are the foot soldiers and first to respond to patients before referring them to specialists," said Mukerenge before referring this reporter to the health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe for a detailed response. Nangombe had at the time of going to press not yet responded to questions emailed to him.